But the change did not include additional funding to accommodate the new requirements. Hiring teachers and creating space for the greater number of classes required is estimated to cost state school districts $188 to $338 million, according to a report by the N.C. Justice Center.
According to the report, districts will have to raise taxes locally to cover these costs. Or in the case of under-resourced districts, programs might be cut.
Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators and speaker at the rally, said enrichment classes should be considered part of core curricula.
“NCAE and our teachers are supportive of small class sizes,” he said. “But you cannot do it haphazardly, and in a way that jeopardizes the kind of education and the kinds of schools that our students deserve — one that is well rounded, with a diverse curriculum.”
Sandra Turner, a parent from Wake County at the rally, said teacher assistants are vital to her son’s kindergarten experience in special education.
“(TAs) help with additional needs, they help the kids access instruction and access the curriculum and to do their work in the classroom,” she said.
Dov Rosenberg, longtime teacher at Rogers-Herr Middle School in Durham, said he spent spring break job hunting.
“If HB13 doesn’t pass, I will be out of a job,” he said.
Rosenberg criticized Senate leadership for allowing the bill to stall in committee, specifically calling out N.C. Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, for not taking action.
The bill passed the House in February. But Senate leaders have expressed concern that increasing funds allotted to public schools will not ensure the extra money will go to decreasing class sizes.
And the Justice Center report said many districts might need to buy trailers or convert old classrooms and program rooms into classrooms to accommodate smaller classes.
“Every district is, right now, scrambling to figure out what to do with less money,” Rosenberg said. “The thing is, you can’t do more with less. You can only do less with less. And if we have less teachers, our kids get less.”